In Categories, Inspiration

I first met Cathy Donald at a book club in South Africa. Our children went to the same school and I was invited by another friend to join a book club she belonged to. New to Cape Town I was keen to meet people and the club provided the perfect opportunity to chat, eat great food, drink wine and occasionally talk about books!


It was also enriching in so many other ways. Not least was being amongst feisty, fun, intelligent and inspiring women who were never short of an opinion or two, and never short of quick wit and a line of humour. They were also talented, kind and compassionate, and engaged in so many different areas of our community. We became great friends month by month, year by year.

Many of us talked about writing books after reading books at bookclub.

Then one of us did.

Today I’d like to introduce you to another inspiring women in the Lifestyle Fifty Inspiring Women series.

By profession she’s a doctor. She’s also mother to three (grown up) children and now she’s an author.

So without further ado … Meet the very lovely, Cathy Donald.

Cathy made time in her busy schedule to answer some questions about life, her novel and about keeping fit after fifty. I hope you enjoy her replies as much as I do.

What inspired you to write The Reluctant Cuckoo?

The idea for this story came to me while we were on holiday at the Kruger Park. I was sitting on the banks of the river and a young white couple walked past me. Suddenly I heard a voice shout ‘Mom!’, and running towards them was a small black child. He caught up with them, eagerly grabbed his mom’s hand and off they walked together. It got me thinking. What led them to this place? How difficult was the colour issue on top of all the other challenges of adoption? Did they manage to surmount the challenges to enjoy the blessings of being involved in each other’s lives? This little family certainly looked as if they had!

Is the theme something that is close to your heart?

I have always been very interested in human drama – how people cope with the various challenges that life throws their way and, in any given human drama, how would all the different players react and adapt. Adoption has always fascinated me as there are so many deep-seated emotions involved. In our situation in South Africa inter-racial adoptions are common and most of us know a family or two that has adopted a child in a different race group from their own, bringing more cultural challenges into the mix.

How have you managed to juggle your career as a doctor with writing a novel?

I have my own practice which focuses primarily on Women’s Health. I do health check-ups concentrating on preventive health at all stages of a woman’s life. Consequently my appointments are elective and I do very little emergency work. I therefore work only three days a week and the other two are my writing days. Historically, I have always worked part-time as I have three children in whose lives I have always been very involved. Now that they are grown and live away from home, I am able to be involved in other passions too – writing being the major one.

How long did it take to write The Reluctant Cuckoo?

Writing The Reluctant Cuckoo initially took about four months. However a lot of it was written in spurts of enthusiasm and, on re-reading some sections, there was a lot that needed to be refined! The correcting and polishing process took probably an equivalent amount of time.

Has being part of a book club helped in the writing of your book?

YES, in so many ways! (As a part of my book club before you moved to Australia, I’m sure you already knew what my answer would be, Jo!) The ladies in my book club are so important to me. We support each other emotionally and encourage each other in our various projects. Two of my book club friends were amongst the first to read the first draft and offer encouragement and constructive criticism. But apart from this, being in a book club helps me to know what other women look for in a novel and hopefully helps me to deliver a book that is relevant and readable.

Could you offer readers 5 tips for staying in shape and keeping fit as we grow older

  • Eat healthily most of the time – but every now and then eat something for your soul!
  • Everything in moderation – don’t eat or drink anything in excess
  • Don’t neglect exercise –it keeps you trim and is a powerful stress-reliever
  • Laugh often – it is the best medicine for the soul
  • Listen to your body – very often it will tell you if something is wrong. Sometimes we just shut out its voice.

What is/are the most important thing/s women can do for their health and/or themselves as they get older?

Women need to embrace the changes in themselves and also to believe in themselves. Age is not to be feared – it is just a number. Three of the things I always wanted to do – write a novel, start running and learn to play the drums – I only did after I turned 50! So decide what it is you really want to do – and do it!

What are you looking forward to doing next?

Since the printing and publishing process for The Reluctant Cuckoo was a long one and involved a lot of waiting with not much activity from me, I started my next novel and am quite far into it already. It involves two women who do a marathon cycle together. Each one has had a recent loss and it is the story of how the physical journey starts their emotional journey to wholeness. I am hoping to start the publishing process sometime in the new year.

Could you share an inspiring quote?

I have many favourite quotes, but the one that best fits this discussion is one by Richard Gere.

“I am old but I am forever young at heart. We are always the same age inside. Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious; you can only live it once. Do not regret growing older – it is a privilege denied to many.”

You can buy Cathy’s book Here: The Reluctant Cuckoo


Patrick, an idealistic and dedicated young doctor, and Fiona, an intelligent and passionate ornithologist, live and work in and around London. When they fall in love and marry, their happiness is tainted when they are unable to fulfil their dream of having a child of their own.

Nandi is a bright young student from an underprivileged South African home. Growing up during the ravages and restrictions of apartheid, she fights for the chance to study further. But this dream is in danger of shattering when she discovers, to her horror, that she is pregnant, and realises that she will be unable to fulfil her dream of studying further if she keeps the child she is carrying.

But for Hannah, born from Nandi, and adopted by Patrick and Fiona, it is not so easy to work out who she really is. Is she the privileged daughter of an upper middle class British couple or is she an unwanted South African child who needed an adoptive family? How can she reconcile these two personas, especially when she looks so different from her adoptive parents? In her questioning mind, she appears to be not White enough for Britain, but not Black enough for Africa. As she grows older, her identity issues become greater until they threaten to engulf her. Her parents, wanting to be faithful to a promise they made to her birth mother, but also desperately frightened of losing their child to her birth heritage, are not forthcoming when it comes to answering her questions. This makes her feel she can’t trust them and alienates her further. It is only when she re-establishes a connection with the country of her birth that Hannah starts to work through the issues that trouble her, and at last finds the peace that appears to be so elusive.



I was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1959, where I lived and attended school until the end of Matric. My love of the English language and the spoken word led to my involvement in Speech and Drama throughout my school career, and in 1976, during my Grade 11 year, I became an associate of the Trinity College of London in teaching Speech and Drama.

However, my career path led me in a different direction. I embarked on my university training, first at the University of Cape Town and then at the University of Witwatersrand, and qualified as a medical doctor in 1984. Since then, I have practiced Medicine in both rural communities and urban private practices. At present, I have my own practice in Somerset West, where I now live. I have been involved through the years in writing scripts, as well as music and lyrics, for amateur dramatic productions, mostly for schools and youth groups.

I live with my husband, Roy, also a doctor, and have three adult children, two sons and a daughter. “The Reluctant Cuckoo” is my first novel.

Thanks so much for being with us today Cathy!

Buy the book

If you’d like to read The Reluctant Cuckoo, and of course I think you should! Then here’s the link to buy it from Amazon :- The Reluctant Cuckoo

(Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link from which I stand to earn a small commission, but you won’t be charged any extra if you buy. Thanks for supporting Cathy and Lifestyle Fifty.)

Do tell us what you think of the book in the comments 🙂 Or why not write a review 🙂

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